In 2016, sixteen year-old Cameron Mayhew was walking to his school bus when he was hit by a motorist illegally passing the stopped bus. Mayhew died the next day. To avoid more tragedies like this one, the Cameron Mayhew Act took effect in Florida on July 1, 2017. This legislation increases the minimum penalty for drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus, resulting in the injury or death of another person. The penalties include serving 120 community service hours in a hospital or trauma center, a $1500 fine, a license suspension for a minimum of one year, six points on your driver’s license, and participation in a victim’s panel discussion, which provides a forum for victims and their families to tell their stories to offenders, demonstrating the impact of the crime on their lives.
Self-reported data collected in 2017 from Florida bus drivers demonstrate a trend of illegal school bus passing that occurs primarily in the morning and evening, when traffic is heavy. In Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus, and Hernando Counties combined, 3,696 illegal passes were counted in one day. Because both motorists and children can be unpredictable, it is important to educate our communities about the importance of school bus safety. “I have talked about it at public meetings and people are shocked at the numbers. The subject is getting awareness,” says Ginger Regalado, Community Traffic Safety Team Program Manager for Florida Department of Transportation. “We are working on creating new educational material to send home with students via the school districts.”
Though it is important to educate our children, it is equally important to educate our drivers. Drivers may put children in danger by passing school buses and should be aware of the legal consequences of these behaviors. If caught, the following penalties may be incurred: a moving violation subject to citation and/or fines, points on your driver’s license, and a requirement to attend a Driver Improvement Course.
The frequency with which illegal school bus passing has been reported in our counties is unacceptable. It is necessary to raise awareness about school bus passing to protect our children from harm and warn motorists of the consequences of their actions. For a comprehensive diagram of the different situations you may find yourself in when approaching a school bus, click here to visit the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website.